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For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 To Know Storm and Calm: Part 4 (16 - 20A)

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TerishD

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PostSubject: To Know Storm and Calm: Part 4 (16 - 20A)   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeJanuary 15th 2019, 7:44 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Sixteen

(Slidell)

I believe that Ayither's directions helped me more than Hallith.  I suspect there were times he managed to stay with us by keeping a focus on the stars, although he also spoke to Ayither.  I did not hear anything romantic between them, but I did find some hope in just the willingness for the two to freely exchange comments with each other.  Ayither acted a lot more open around Hallith than she had with Zergus, or any other previous man in our company.  I listened to the pair speak of more than directions to our objective, while wondering if she would gain the life with him I had desired with Zergus.

Hearing the exchanges between the two I felt that Hallith would not be the man for me.  He had a very open mind that tolerated the rushed words and erratic topic changes of storm.  Ayither was bothered at times by him wanting details, or simply desiring for her to continue with a line of thought.  I however felt that Hallith would be bored by my lengthy tirades on specific points.  His mentioning of various other worlds also did not entice me, so I felt it best if Hallith would become the man for Ayither.

As she had said, we came upon the monastery with Lunara sitting behind the mass of plants fed by a cascade of water from further up the mountain.  The bottom of the stone walls had slots cut into them for the abundance of liquid to pour out.  When I approached this religious retreat I usually stayed outside, as those inside were ever presenting their aspect of storm.  This time I however saw the figures of men on top of the wall before the backdrop of the large, bright moon.

I heard a voice that I knew say, "Ayither usually is unsuccessful in getting you to come in, Slidell.  Still, as usual, you are welcome."

Ayither said, "This is Hallith with us.  He was once a Quartermaster.  I suspect he will come in."

"Really, a Quartermaster?  They, I know, are storm, but not Thor."

"No," Hallith replied.  "My god is a water deity however, called Zetrullid.  I will mean you no harm."

"We got water."

"Yes, I can tell.  Must get really saturated when you have an actual storm raging around you."

"OH, YES!  We have special rites and ceremonies for that."

I could not help but say, "Mostly just dancing around."

"And singing!"

The man started into a song.  Others also in the monastery joined in the tune.  I definitely felt no desire to also sing, as I could tell that the words were being made up on the spot.  There did seem to be a consistent chorus, but there were enough alterations that even with it being about water I felt it best not to join.  Ayither was storm, but air, so I was not surprised that she stayed quiet.  Hallith displayed no appreciation for the song, but simply stayed on his mount as the men did their performance.

After a few verses, I heard a grinding of stone before the men stopped singing with one pushing open the door saying, "All right, we are letting you in."

Ayither dismounted, then led her mount forward while asking, "Please direct me to your altar.  I have an apology to make."

A man moving to take the reins of the horse returned, "Whatever for?  It is not like we care what you do."

"I care, and I am sorry.  Just point the way."

I dismounted along with Hallith, and I saw him look to me with the same mystification that probably showed on my face.  While this monastery was to a god of storm, there was a true religion advanced by the monks.  I thought that I recognized the voice of the one that first spoke, but now looked around to verify other things about those who resided here.

A head monk I knew as Chavory answered, "It's that flat stone up near the bottom of the falls.  There are stone pews before it, so it should be obvious."

Since I recognized the man, I advanced to him while asking, "You haven't been using it?"

"No.  I mean, we have our rites, but no need to get all serious about them the way you calm people do.  It also has all that water about it.  Really a lot of trouble."

Hallith seemed to understand my attitude, as he said, "But you worship a water god."

"Well, yeah, but you can slip and fall down.  You have to walk all careful and proper like you are some calm devotee.  Thor is however not calm, so the altar is too much trouble."

"What does Thor say about you not using his altar?"

"Nothing, as he gets his worship.  He is not calm, so understands."

Ayither turned to Hallith and me to say, "Go on to your rooms.  I will do what I feel that I must."

I replied, "I will pay my respects as well."

"You just want to see what Thor does to me."

"I am calm.  I do things to pay my respect."  I however could not prevent myself from adding, "Of course, if I am concerned for a friend, I will stay with them."

Hallith walked toward the altar saying, "I am amazed that I have never seen an altar like this to Zetrullid.  There is usually a natural source of water around one of his altars, but nothing so extravagant.  If you do not believe Thor will mind, I will go change out of my armor then come back to sit here and give my report to my god."

Ayither walked up to the altar saying, "It seems that his monks won't even notice you, so I doubt anyone will complain."

"That is strange, right?"

I had to say, "We of calm would say, 'no,' but the truth is that I do consider it strange."

Ayither said, "Yes, it's strange."

She then motioned with her head to the altar.  Hallith and I took seats on different pews.  I felt good seeing Ayither pull something from a saddlebag.  It was an elaborate decanter filled with flowers and stones of a kind I could not make out.  I trusted she had gained something that would please Thor.  While going to his offer to apologize for certain actions would gain some honor, considering what she claimed to have done a sacrifice would definitely be considered necessary.  I became alarmed seeing a rush of water lift to surround Ayither, but motioned to Hallith to hold his place as we had no authority to confront Thor.

She was drenched when the water collapsed.  Normally, I would see a rush of air come around her to dry her off, which declared her close association to the storm god of air.  In this circumstance she stayed looking like a wet puppy, although there was the usual smile on her face.

Ayither said, "We can stay the night.  Hallith, you are welcome to do your own worship from a pew.  Slidell, you also gained such a concession."

I replied, "I will of course give Thor his honor, and let him know my pleasure in seeing that he does still live."

"Yeah.  I cried while holding his leg with one arm while pounding on it with the hand of the other arm.  I let him know that he should have revealed himself at that altar in Sethanand.  I believe that my sincerity, and anger, in having his presence is what had him accept my apology."

Being relieved by those words, I went ahead and asked a question I considered important.  "Well, did he tell you anything of our mission?"

"Not really.  He said that things were going on that needed people of our devotion.  He actually said that my conviction to destroy the temple was a good thing."

"Storm."

That was just an utterance by me, and I guess Ayither understood as she laughed before saying, "I know, right.  If you went and did something like I did, you would have Nemerry all over you, much less the god whose temple you ransacked."

I just nodded, but Hallith asked, "He did not give you any directions?"

"No.  He in fact said that his people could only lie, as they had no instructions.  He however did assure me that we would get some rest, although advised us to get moving back on our way as early as possible."

"Well, it is already late, but there are things I feel led to do.  Still, I don't need much."

I said, "I agree with Hallith that there is a beauty in this place.  Usually, the monks and their ways of storm have me rest outside the monastery.  I will say my prayers here, then retire to my place."

Ayither started moving away from the altar while saying, "Well, I am going to my room.  I will pray to Typhorsh as I dry myself."

"It is strange seeing you wet."

She had a smile on her face when she turned to me, but the words were soft.  "He said that you did not have what you should, Slidell, but I did.  Thor would not tell me more than that, except that you were the one that needed to understand.  I am here for you, Slidell.  Don't you ever doubt my friendship."

I was mystified, but it did not keep me from speaking the truth.  "I won't, Ayither.  You were a rough personality at first, but you have proven yourself to me several times.  Although storm, I never found your wind to feel like a threat."

She turned to Hallith to comment, "Four hundred years.  I don't know if I could do it.  To me every year I wonder how I survived it."

"Yet every year you promise your god that you will not fail in your service to him," He replied.

"Yeah, we're complete idiots, aren't we?  Okay, I'll leave you water champions to your own.  Just a warning however, if I awake before you, I will be getting your asses up."

Hallith stood, I assume to go to his room and change clothes as he said, but he first whispered to me, "I hope she knows that I will do the same to her."

I replied, "Don't you ever doubt her.  I have stood with her when I had other champions of calm that I could have stood with.  Thor is right.  She does have gifts that I do not.  I however had seen her as a champion of storm, and not as someone separate from that.  I think I am seeing that she is something more than that – that storm and calm does not fully represent what we are."

"Well, I have traveled with a number of others.  You two ladies don't bother me at all.  I am glad to have come to know you both.  Don't either of you feel that I will let you down."

"I don't, Hallith.  What I feel is that we are going to let ourselves down."  Not wanting to speak further on the topic, I said, "But I promise to pray for guidance.  Please, do so as well.  Maybe your god that is a world away can see better than we can.  I honestly feel that was why you were sent to us."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.


Last edited by TerishD on February 9th 2019, 7:51 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Chapter Seventeen - Part One   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeJanuary 20th 2019, 7:56 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Seventeen – Part One

(Hallith)

I heard the splashing of someone moving through the water before one of my feet was lifted. While not a normal action, I did not consider it a threat. Opening my eyes to see Ayither drop the appendage, I figured she was just keeping a promise.

She then sat on the pew next to my feet to ask, "So, you really found this comforting?"

I sat up while answering, "I do worship a water god."

"Not one for beds?"

"There has seldom been a bed, so I got used to sleeping without one. There is also a beauty in a natural setting that just cannot compare to a room."

"Yes, I guess, considering that you worship water. I like a field where I can feel the wind and watch the clouds. That was where I was when I first committed to Typhorsh. Didn't like Myriah, as she can represent no wind at all. I wanted wind. Still had that thought a year or two later when the event happened that I became a Champion of Typhorsh."

I would have liked to have spent time talking, but knew that we needed to be moving. "I will get dressed and ready for travel. Do we even ask the monks for directions?"

"Of course. Just like with calm, you let them do what they must. It does often seem like a big waste, but we are not the ones at fault. The monks know that we are champions of other gods, so they should suspect that we have other sources of advice. We however should not stand in the way of them condemning themselves. Hopefully, just like I did for my own stupid actions, they will realize that some apology, some repentance, is necessary."

"Well, they are going to lie to us, so we will know in which direction not to go. I hope you however have a direction for us to go."

"Nope, sorry. All I know is that we are to go, so we go. Go get yourself ready."

I did rise, but before moving through the water I said, "Just want you to know that I am enjoying traveling with you and Slidell. I can tell the two of you are friends, and it makes being with the two of you rather pleasant. I will support the both of you as much as possible."

"Listen, Hallith, I believe Slidell pegged you wrong. I was not there when you and her met, and I am still not certain about what happened between her and Zergus. Still, some of the things she has told me has not really matched up with what I have seen. I like you, don't get me wrong, but I think Slidell is the one for you to focus upon."

I did take a moment to think before replying, "I believe both Slidell and me are coming off of a serious relationship. While the lady in my case died, I will allow that the break-up between Slidell and Zergus was something equally stressful. As for you, I like you. I however believe that both Slidell and I cannot really make a decision about a new relationship. We are thus trusting you to just keep us stable. What happens later, well, I believe this time will form a solid foundation for whatever."

"I like you even more now. Go get dressed. I will get Slidell up, then get the monks to make us breakfast and supply some directions. While we know the directions will be bad, hopefully the breakfast won't be."

I could not say that the breakfast was anything to be overly grateful about, but it did put something on my stomach. The butter would probably have been good if allowed to make into cheese, but the tough bread really needed a thin soup to soften up its texture. I saw Ayither throw both among some trees, then eat the serving of fruit preserves. Thinking that to be a good idea, I worked to swallow what I had in my mouth before doing the same with my breakfast.

We were not traveling at a fast rate. Not really certain where to go, we basically headed in an opposite direction than told. I heard the ladies speaking to their deities hoping for some indication of our destination. We thus turned with wonder when a horn sounded announcing the arrival of some horsemen traveling at a good rate toward us.

They came to a stop before us with one removing a hood to show the head of an elderly man even as he asked, "Where are you three going?"

Slidell hissed to the other lady, "I thought you said King Gradden was not important anymore."

Ayither really did not whisper her reply, "He is still our king, so I guess we listen to what he has to say."

The man did not show any knowledge of having heard the exchange as he said, "I know the ladies – quite well to be honest. You – my reports say are Hallith of the Quartermasters."

I replied, "Not really with the Quartermasters anymore, but just a divine champion for the god Zetrullid."

"I would ask what you are doing here, but at the moment glad to see you with these ladies." He then moved his horse closer to assure that he had the attention of the females. "Slidell, I have not heard the full story from Zergus, but enough to know that he has not been completely honest with you, me, and others, although especially you. What seems to be happening does however seem to be important."

The Champion of Nemerry replied, "That has come to be our opinion as well. Do you have some guidance?"

"Of course I do, which is why I paid those monks to send you toward me."

"That does not speak well of you, King Gradden, as Nemerry told us the monks would lie to us."

"Just curious, but where did they tell you to go?"

Ayither answered, "To Meharnin's peak you should an ogre seek. His element is fire, but his wisdom you will admire."

"Then my faith should be restored, as I paid them to have you go to the Untarnished Boot in Frudillar."

Slidell said, "My faith in you is restored, as neither what Ayither said or you was what the monks told us."

The monarch looked at the champion of storm and said, "Deception is not your usual ways, Ayither."

She replied, "When warned of lies, one should not trust in honesty."

"I guess not. Luckily, I had scouts watching the monastery, because I suspected something. Listen, I feel that you should be aware of the bigger picture. If I am lying then I am prepared to tell a whole lot of them."

Slidell said, "King Gradden, I would rather not catch you lying."

"Listen, ladies, both of you are from my land. Trust that I would not mean either of you wrong. As loyal as these men around me might be, acting against either of you would challenge their devotion to me. A Champion of Nemerry and a Champion of Typhorsh have their honor, but ones that have served for so long with such a history of success ranks in the heart of the people even more than a noble of my rank and years."

"What would these men know to challenge what you might say to us?"

I felt that to be a good question, although found the monarch's reply to be something I found to be amazing. "Oh, come on, Slidell! You have known me since I was a child. I grew up hearing stories of you. In all those years, have I ever given you cause to act against me?"

"Almost."

"Almost? That word alone should have you trust me."

Ayither said, "Almost? That must have been before my time."

Slidell replied, "Actually, it was part of the situation that you found yourself in when you claimed your own status as champion."

King Gradden attempted to give more of an explanation. "Those were difficult times, Ayither. If you would recall, I often blame your own success with the hard times that started your career. You are quite unlike most champions who claim the blessing of a god to battle some monster, some group of bandits, or some local skirmish."

The Champion of Typhorsh proved she accepted the words by saying, "Okay, King Gradden, I will allow you to give us counsel."

"So, where were you going?"

Slidell answered, "Ayither and I know a place where our two elements can be found. Hallith is also water, so he should be able to find comfort as well."

"Is it far?"

"No, as we did not get much sleep last night. Neither did our horses, and that troubled us more."

"Good. If you do not mind, allow me and my men to travel with you. I will have them fix us something to eat. While they do so, I will provide my counsel. After the meal I will begin my journey home, and leave the three of you to weigh my words, speak to your gods, and determine your own direction."

Ayither said, "That is what you need to do, King Gradden. Abide by it, please."

I saw the ladies look to each other. They were very different, but I could tell that both were very familiar with the ways of the other. The body language of all also showed a common history giving them a measure of understanding. In the glance between the ladies I however detected a sense of Slidell being surprised in the actions and words of Ayither.

The Champion of Nemerry nodded to the other female champion, then looked to the monarch to say, "Yes, Your Majesty, as this war seems to be of matters beyond your authority."

"That is true," King Gradden replied. "Still, you two are important to me. Let me tell you what I can."

It took us almost three hours to travel to the place. Arriving I saw a grand meadow with the grass waving from a constant, but varying, breeze. In the center was a clear deep pool of water. I thus rode up to the place accepting that a champion of air and a champion of water could both find solace in the location.

The king did not travel with a large group of people. By the time some went to care for the horses and others to begin preparing food, only a couple were left to watch for threats to the monarch. I sat to listen to what the ladies were to be told, but I found myself more perplexed by the people around me.

The men did not just know the ladies, but things about them. They spoke of their families. They mentioned things about previous missions the ladies had performed. The men then asked me about my home, and I had to walk away.

It was Slidell that came out to me asking, "Is there a problem, Hallith?"

"No." Okay, I was crying, so she knew I had lied. "It is just that I found myself remembering why I am here. It is not to get you or Ayither as a wife. It is to act on what I know of a normal life. Yes, that would mean possibly gaining you or Ayither as a wife, but... but compared to me you have a normal life. That man is your king, but I mean the king of your home. He actually rules over your family, or descendants, or whatever. The soldiers know you – I mean as in they are used to dealing with you. Maybe not directly, but still they consider you a part of their lives even if not related to you. Anerth had me, and Pesloe, and Chertish walk away from our lives, our families. Pesloe was my princess, but she became just another one of the Quartermasters. When we finally came back, it was over four hundred years later, and our lives were gone."

"But doesn't Kierle want you to get all that back?"

"I cannot take you or Ayither from what you have. I also cannot see myself as having a life where I allow you to have your life and still keep the drive that I have. I am going to have to tell Kierle that she failed."

I could not continue to cry in front of her. It hurt to do so in front of my children, but they knew their mother. They actually would have thought less of me if I had not. Slidell did not have that history with me, so I held myself from crying even as she came up to put a hand on my shoulder.

"My family is fading into history as well. I am becoming more and more a legend among the people and not a real person. I understand. You might be surprised how well Ayither understands as well. Storm is not an easy aspect to represent. She can probably relate to your life even better than me."

"Yes, well, that is what had me come out here. I realized that you had something that I wanted, that I was sent to gain. I found myself however faced with the life I had, and not seeing the connection. That is what I told Kierle. I told her that now she had shown me what a normal life was, that I could one day actually see myself coming to a place where I might find myself wanting it. I however found myself seeing you and Ayither already having it, and not willing to take it from you."

Not wanting to waste time, I said, "I trust you. I trust Ayither. Find out what your king has to tell you, then tell me where we are going next and what we are to do. I will not fail you."

"No, Hallith, I don't believe you will. However, let me say that I feel you are the most open among us. Ayither is not saying something. I believe Thor told her something, and she for some reason has not seen fit to tell us. I believe King Gradden will state how he sees things from his political position, but since we are dealing with matters beyond local politics I cannot see how his wisdom will apply. As for our gods, they are being affected, so have their own biases in relaying information that actually make them, and I include Nemerry, suspect. Sorry, Hallith, but the fact that you will tell me things like that makes me willing to trust you – to actually feel that I need you. Please come and listen with me."

Putting it that way, I had to agree, at least on everything but one point. "Don't distrust Ayither. I will bet she more than has her reason, and it is not deception."

"That thing with Meharnin's peak and the ogre of fire is the first lie I ever heard her tell. It bothers me."

Actually, as a Quartermaster my actions had always been too direct to enact any deception, although I had learned to appreciate those who could fool me. "I thought it was witty. I am not saying that I support lying, but I felt it was a good ruse. If she had attempted to support the lie, I would probably more than agree with you."

"True, and even I have to admit that Thor probably told her something. He might be water and she air, but they are both storm. Thus, her deception might be from a divine source. While I presently find myself with suspicion about my sources of advice, I have to say the divine voices still touch me deeply." Before I could respond, she commanded, "Come on, Hallith. I need you to listen as well."

"Okay."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Chapter Seventeen - Part Two   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeJanuary 25th 2019, 7:35 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Seventeen – Part Two

(Hallith)

She kept a hold on my shoulder as we walked back. I found myself wondering if she could actually be a physical threat to me. She had a good height for a lady, although nothing overly stately while I was well over the height of most men. I felt that I probably more than doubled her weight. Ayither was smaller. I knew she was not a physical match for me, as she had actually used my form as a support for some actions. Her body and the force it applied to me did not tax my own stability. Both I however accepted probably had a power that could challenge me should I get on the wrong side of their dedication as divine champions. I thus did nothing to have Slidell let go of her hold on my shoulder.

Coming back into his presence, King Gradden asked, "Any problems that I should know about, Hallith?"

I answered, "No, Your Majesty. There is just a reason for me being here. I meant no disrespect, and definitely have no intention of failing these two ladies. I told Slidell that I trusted her to relay the facts to me, but she informed me of her own need for my perspective."

"That is a huge honor from her. For someone of calm, she often goes her own way. She has saved my butt a number of times from seeing problems I did not. Once I was young and rebelled against her, but now I am old and hoping, hoping, hoping that she can continue to see through the haze that I feel around me. I am not speaking to tell these ladies what to do, but to assure that they know why I am doing what I am doing. Whatever happens, I don't want them mad at me."

Ayither said, "From my history with the man, I can say that is really why he is doing this too."

Slidell directed me to a seat while saying, "But he is correct that I usually do prove myself correct. I however know how much is wisdom, how much the rest is luck, and how many times I feel that I had been wrong. To hopefully prevent the latter, and reduce the need for luck, I went to assure your wisdom is present, Hallith."

I did not argue, or act uncomfortable. I listened as intently as possible to what King Gradden had to say. Slidell had a fixation upon the man and his words, although not knowing the land or the people kept my own mind slightly distant from any real connection to the information. Ayither walked around, and noticeably kept bothering the cooks, but she did make enough comments to let those attempting to focus on the conversation know that she was paying attention as well. I however did nothing to interrupt the topics presented.

No conclusions were stated once King Gradden had finished his presentation. He did not demand, or even ask, for either lady to make any promises to him. I did not get the impression that he felt his words to have been sufficient to gain a certain response, but only a sense of relief that he was able to get his message spoken completely. The only conclusion he voiced was faith in his soldiers to see him safely back to his castle.

After the monarch rode off with his men, Slidell said, "We can discuss things. I suspect we will pray on guidance. Hopefully we can agree on a destination in the morning." When we spoke to accept her words, she changed her voice to a commanding tone. "Okay, Hallith, now you can take a walk. I want to take a bath."

The pool was not that big, so I accepted that she could not just move along the shore to find a private place. I however used the remaining water in my canteen to wash my cup, then went to the pool to refill my canteen and drinking vessel. I then told Slidell to take her time before moving around the horses and off to find a place in the distance.

I heard some laughter, then turned seeing Ayither running to me. She was quite lovely. Not just her youth, but I sensed a joy in her life that radiated her beauty. More than willing to spend time with her, I waited for her to run to me.

"Do you feel the wind, Hallith?"

Not exactly the opening words I expected, so I cannot say that my response was the best. "I do, but I am pleased that it is not bothersome."

"I never find the wind bothersome."

"Even with all that hair?"

She laughed while running a hand through her tresses. "I'm a girl, Hallith. I've always had long hair. No, it does not bother me. Even when I was young I enjoyed the feel of wind in my hair."

"That was what Straekin said. Straekin is the wife of Terish Dozzrine and has extremely long hair."

Ayither interrupted me to say, "I have heard of Straekin of Davelda, Hallith. The minstrels somehow gain words of these great heroes of other worlds."

"Yes, well, I have spent time with her. She has hair that drops usually around her butt. When others ask her about it, she also speaks of having such lengthy tresses for so many centuries that it does not bother her. She will however usually use ribbons and items to help her keep it under control."

"Oh, is she storm or calm?"

"From my experience, most worlds do not have a separation of the two. Straekin would probably be calm, except that there is a fire inside her. I have seen her fight, and I have seen her handle her husband. I have never been to Davelda." Taking a moment to actually think of Straekin, I concluded, "I probably should go."

"You mean to visit?"

"Uh, yes." Attempting to make sense of the tone of her voice, I asked, "Is that a problem?"

"Yes. I'm storm, Hallith. All the other champions of storm I have known have spoken of the calm of normal life. That is why most leave. They find themselves losing the drive that caused them to take up the life as a champion of storm. They want a family, to spend time with friends, and even to gain proper employment. I see in you a chance to gain instruction in how to stay storm even in the midst of calm."

Looking at the lovely young form standing before me, I found myself having to ask, "Aren't you doing that right now?"

She spun while saying, "I feel the wind, Hallith. I don't feel calm. Get me inside a building with everyone only sitting around talking or doing mundane chores and I feel uneasy."

I somehow could relate, but I also felt that I had an easy solution. "If you want, Ayither, you can come with me at the end of this. I won't mind. Zetrullid, or even Aslerrida, might have another mission for me. I however am thinking to check on my friends. That would include Terish and Straekin." I laughed, then suggested, "If you start feeling calm, I can have us go to Anerth and the present Quartermasters. A few days of that should restore your sense of storm."

"I would like that, Hallith. Would that offer stay open even if you decide to like Slidell, or she decides that she likes you?"

"You're a friend, Ayither. You're even a friend to Slidell. I thus cannot see why the offer would not stay open. I did say that I intended to visit friends."

She rushed upon me to manage a jump that enabled her to peck a cheek, then playfully said, "I don't know if I can manage being alone with a man."

"The type of life that you lead and you have never been alone with a man? When I came upon Slidell, she was alone with Zergus."

"I mean one that I like. Most others of storm are trying to make moves on me, and I really have not appreciated that. Don't know why. You would think I would. I saw other ladies give in to men, and I do like men and wonder about men. I however have never actually found myself liking a man. I like you, Hallith."

As if the statement troubled her, Ayither kept talking. "What I don't understand is why those of calm give up their status as champions. Surely they can keep their spirit. I mean, calm should be calm."

Hoping to help her, I said, "Slidell keeps her calm even in the midst of battle. In situations where I feel storm would be best, she is there maintaining her presence. She might have an answer for you."

"Yes, but she was going to give it up for Zergus. I think that is what scares her about you, Hallith. It is not your ability to take on the storm, but the fact that you will not give up your life. If she chose you, she would have to stay as she is."

"Yes, as that is what I see as a normal life. I want my life to become as Terish and Straekin, Pesloe and Cornispe, Ferrigote and Dirchein, and other immortal couples that I know. I do not want to leave this life, as this is what I feel is normal for me. I am comfortable in this life."

"Well, can you accept that I am storm? For the rest of eternity I want to feel the wind."

The words came out with the tones of innocence that matched the youthful form before me. I had to smile with memories of dealing with my own girls. Kierle had been young when I gained her, but not as young as the body of Ayither. My slave had also done things to give her some wisdom on topics that I could tell were still mysteries to this champion of storm. Wanting Ayither to continue to come to me, I tried to speak my reply in a manner that would not have her alter her mood.

"I will let you in on something about us men, Ayither, we don't want things to change. Once we find our happiness, we want things to stay as they are. Yes, if I accepted you into my life, I would want you to continue to feel the wind, because I would not want you to change."

"I like that, Hallith. You thus might find me challenging Slidell if she tries to claim you."

"She is a good lady, Ayither. You would ever regret losing her friendship."

She sighed, then leaned against me while saying, "I am not worried about losing her friendship, Hallith, but yours. I want what you have, Hallith, and I am even finding myself to want you."

"I am friends with many people, Ayither. Honestly, as antagonistic as my life is, I don't go around making enemies. You keep your friendship with Slidell, as I plan on keeping my friendship with her. The same with you."

Ayither spun to again peck me on the cheek, then said, "Don't you worry about me, Hallith. If you are willing to keep me as I am then you will never have any reason to fear me. I am storm however, and it does put certain requirements upon me. If you prove that you can deal with it, you might be rewarded by feeling pleasure in the wind as well."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Eighteen   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeJanuary 30th 2019, 7:44 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Eighteen

(Slidell)

I could sense the pleasure Ayither found in Hallith. What troubled me was that the man did not seem to react to her in the manner I remember men responding to me. Most did not have the words or dreams that matched mine. To then learn that Zergus, who did manage to reach my heart, had such a hidden life troubled me. I wondered if I really knew myself, which had me concerned for how much I knew others, even Ayither.

When she came to get something to drink, I am afraid that I had a commanding tone as I asked, "What do you have to say?"

"Oh – water and air, Slidell, why are we so important? There are three other gods, not counting those not really active in our lives. Only water and air have storm and calm. We should be the oddities, but instead we set the standard. Vulcan, Gesaha, and Phetosan do not have those aspects. Don't see how they could, but I guess they could. The ocean has storm and calm, but there is just Neptune. Rayell, Mayune, and Lunara I guess could have storms and calm upon them, but we don't hear of it. Don't hear of it with any of the other gods either."

Not really understanding, I asked, "Is this what we are involved in? Are some gods wanting to expand their influence?"

"Yes. Why else would someone want to kill a god, except to remove his influence to gain it for themselves?"

Attempting to make sense of what she said, I felt a need to state a counter. "But what I have heard was that they intended to make Nemerry the major goddess."

"And who would challenge that? I get along with you, Slidell. Nemerry is not worshipped, because she is just too pleasant. Most people give their honor to another they feel the need to actually please. As for Nemerry becoming important, most would still feel that they do not need to really care about her."

I really did not know how to respond to that, but luckily Ayither kept talking. "What Thor told me was that we needed to keep the focus. We: Typhorsh, Myriah, Thor, and Nemerry actually promote the emotions of the people. Fire and plants are just things, but we are more than water and air. Further, Slidell, what we are both desiring is to become more than even what we are. That is why you couldn't have Zergus. He would have limited you. You have done so much, Slidell. You need a man that will allow you to expand further than simply being a wife and mother. That is what Hallith is showing us, and what I really desire from him. I don't want my storm to end, Slidell. He can do it. I can sense that. He can keep my storm raging, and I want that. I like my connection with Typhorsh, and I believe that I can join Hallith and continue to become something more than any other woman before me."

Since she had turned the conversation toward Hallith, I felt a need to make my own statement about him. "I sense that he could be a wonderful shield to protect me from the storm, Ayither. I have found in my friendship with you along with my companionship with others of storm that a calm cannot last. I fight for it with pride, but it is hard when I feel that you of storm actually are the proper ones to handle a mission. I want to help you, but my ways are not your ways. Hallith could help me support your storm while still allowing me to have my calm."

"Are we going to fight over him?"

"No. At least not now, and I believe that if we find ourselves doing that then our failure is imminent. Hallith is facing his own opinion of things, and I am waiting to see if he makes a decision. He has told me that he won't, at least in the foreseeable future. He wants to build a foundation for something that will last, and that takes time. He is giving us our time, and we should use it to come to an understanding ourselves. If we however use our time to destroy our own friendship, we will end up failing ourselves, our gods, and the people we are to protect."

I saw her actually stop and bring herself to an erect posture while saying, "And people wonder why I will travel with you, Slidell. I need you. As calm as you are, you have provided more support for my storm than anyone else."

There was no doubt that she meant to honor me, but I kept my focus. "Where do we go?"

"I felt it was obvious in our conversation, Slidell. We go to Phetosan. The large plants, the trees, have the reputation for holding wisdom as they continue through the years. Since we need such wisdom, we go Phetosan."

Considering where we were, I asked, "Lekoth?"

She smiled as she answered, "No. Erfuyorn."

"Ah. Yes, a monastery. I can accept that. We leave in the morning."

"The horses need rest, so I can wait. I will let Hallith know." She then yelled, "Hallith, we have come to a decision! We leave in the morning! Get some sleep!"

I heard him move to the horses while saying, "Then I will need my own privacy. Give me time to bathe, then I will end my day. If you need me to keep watch, don't be afraid to wake me."

As I picked up some things, I said, "Just to let you know, we will be going to a monastery unto the god Phetosan. We feel that we should gain good information there."

"I have already told both of you ladies that I trust you."

Ayither then softly said to me, "You cannot tell me that he does not touch you in a way that Zergus did not."

I replied, "I don't believe you understand how much I had committed myself to Zergus. When I am around Hallith, I just find myself wondering why Zergus could not have had the depth of Hallith. I accepted Zergus as he was, only to learn that was not truly him. The more that I probe into Hallith however, I find more of the man that I like. He might not be the man for me, Ayither, but he is teaching me how to find the man that will be for me."

"I just like him."

"Then let me say that you should continue to like him. He is calm however. Once you have learned about him, that will be who he is."

"No, he is storm. Listen to him, Slidell. For almost five hundred years his spirit has continued to rage. Even now, he is not speaking of leaving a calm. When he speaks of Kierle and a normal life, he is not speaking of calm."

I could not argue with those words. There was indeed a depth of conviction that could drive someone through the horrors of life. It took control for me to remain calm at times, and I had watched Ayither as she held herself back from losing herself to the rush of events. I had felt the passion with Zergus, and sought to have that instead of retaining the honor and dignity I had developed. Hallith had however gone through the life with his slave, and had stayed who he had always been. I did not fear him changing me, but had the feeling that I needed to. My own opinion was that Ayither did not need to change, so felt a need to speak words of warning to her.

"He however will not rush to overcome you. If you sought to work your influence upon him, I feel that you would be unrewarded. It will take time for your air to absorb his water."

"That is what I want, Slidell. I want a man that will allow my storm to continue to rage. If I can continue my life even when traveling with him then I will know that I found my man."

I had to smile as I said, "But, Ayither, you continue to rage when traveling with me."

"Oh, you annoy me Slidell. Not in any bad way, but your ways of calm annoys me. If you were a man, I probably would not like you. Hallith – I like Hallith."

I told her that I liked Hallith as well, but that he would probably be best for her. She just cheerfully agreed, then darted off. I simply walked away from the pool a short distance, then began my prayers with my back to the source of water. I heard Hallith enter the pool, but did not feel any longing to turn around. I promised myself and Nemerry that I would not again chance my purity until all things of me dedicating my life to a man were properly finalized. That then had me think of what I had done with Zergus, then what Ayither had done recently in telling the lie. I enjoyed the experience, and I accepted that what Ayither did was probably the best thing in testing the motives of King Gradden. For both of us the action however made us impure. I then thought of what Hallith had done in having a relationship with a slave, and could not help but agree that the experience had been positive for him. Not liking where my thoughts were going, I rose to again speak with Ayither.

She was performing katas with her various weapons, but paused in seeing me approach. "Ayither, have you ever spent time with a man?"

"No. I'm storm, Slidell. Everything about being with a man involves calm. Relationships are the reason, I mean other than death, that champions of storm give up their station." She laughed, then said, "Which always has me wonder why there are not a multitude of champions of calm, as you should have no problem there."

"There is a dedication, a focus, to calm. Husbands, children, and just the life they demand will disturb that constancy. Trust me, there are things about a man that will involve storm."

"Hallith says that he knows of others that do it. I however was wondering why I did not know of any of those calm who do it. Now I know. I however am interested in traveling with Hallith and meeting these others. He claims to know some really fantastic people."

I was proud for her. She was not just speaking of liking Hallith, but of doing things to learn even more about him. That was what I should have done with Zergus. I was proud that she learned how not to duplicate my mistakes.

I had to say, "Do not forget me, Ayither. Come back and tell me about them."

"Of course, Slidell. You could come too."

"No. I don't want to know."

I saw exasperation on her features and heard it in her voice as she said, "You just told me to tell you."

"I want to be happy for you, Ayither. I do consider you a friend. I will worry about you."

"Damn. You're calm. You don't want to change."

"No."

I cannot say that she recognized the tension in my body, but Ayither saw something. As if needing to be certain, she stepped up to grab my shoulders. I let her look into my eyes, but felt them fill with tears as she answered in her usual honest manner.

"You're calm; you don't have to. I'm storm. There is change coming. Stay who you are, Slidell. I have always needed that from you, and I probably always will."

I tried to smile as I said, "After over a hundred years, you would think it to be easy for me."

Her eyes moved to look toward the pond as she said, "After a hundred years, I believe Nemerry wanted to give you a chance. However, I do not see you as being given an option of losing. Either you stay as you are, and who you are, or you go on to better things. Neither is a bad decision. I believe it is just a matter of you deciding which path to follow. I know that I cannot stay who I am, Slidell. My only option is to go on to better things, which us ladies have to accept is the life of a wife and mother. I think Hallith is the chance for me to rise above that." She then hugged me while saying, "I promise to never forget you."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Nineteen   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeFebruary 4th 2019, 8:10 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Nineteen

(Slidell)

I found myself wondering if Nemerry did bring Hallith to my world to provide an option to Zergus. That however brought up questions about why she never told me about him. I then wondered about how my goddess saw my life, whether she was pleased with me or wanted me to settle down and become a regular wife and mother.

My thoughts did not interrupt my time on watch. In the calm manner of my training, I allowed my mind to think upon proper things while my senses stayed alert for disruptions to the regular flow of time. Seeing the stars wander from the sky, I sent a dagger along a predetermined arc. As creatures of fire appeared to descend around the camp, I readied myself for combat.

A monster whose form appeared covered in flames yelled out, "You might as well surrender, champion of calm. We have you surrounded."

Thinking of Hallith, I stepped up to my opponents while saying, "I believe you made a mistake."

The one who had first spoken, and not any of those I approached, strongly voiced his question, "Oh?"

"Yes. At least one of my companions is a champion of storm."

I started my attack as Ayither yelled, "AND WE DON'T SURRENDER!"

With her in my group, I knew better than to parlay. It was not that Ayither, or any champion of storm, was unreasonable, but they did not take a mission without certain assumptions already decided. That was one of the many reasons that champions of storm did not last. When a conflict was finished, they usually had their minds move on to other things. Another major reason for champions of storm to not be plentiful was that they tended to die. Ayither however recognized her youth and inexperience from the beginning, so kept her energy in practicing her skills. That determination to improve also helped her survive. When I released the dagger to alert her, I understood that combat would happen, but also that our odds of winning were rather high.

Cries from another direction tried to distract me. I however kept my focus feeling certain that I knew their source. During a maneuver I recognized an opportunity to look in a certain direction, and indeed saw the flash of Hallith's large weapon before it struck.

I had learned languages in my years of existence. I could not say that I was fluent, but certain words had become known to me. What I assumed was the lead figure of the opposition yelled out for his next unit. I knew how to ask about the number of units in the language, but as calm I did not tend to talk in combat.

My attacks were being very effective. I had assumed my companions were also striking true when the cry for the main unit went up. What now appeared were very large creatures of fire. I had faced those of this type before, but remembered crying to Nemerry for a blessing. I did speak those words, but not in a truly vocal fashion. Something about this fight just seemed too easy. I did not doubt the capabilities of my companions, but usually large forces took longer to overcome. It felt like I had just engaged the first unit a very short time ago, and already was preparing to take on a serious challenge. Instead of asking Nemerry for a special blessing, I simply thanked her for making my attacks so effective.

A cry of success went up from a strange throat as I was forced back. I had felt the flames of that opponent. Suddenly, I had to step and strike having another great opponent upon me. No cry of success this time, but I set myself to earn the victory.

The voice of Hallith went out, "Ayither, do you have this?"

"Of course I have it!" she returned.

"I am helping Slidell!"

"If you can. As calm, she has her own way of fighting."

"Yeah."

That was all I heard verbally from Hallith. Even without armor, his large form could be made out to be coming in my direction. I changed my focus as an opponent to my right contorted in a strange way from having a large blade thrust up inside it. As I made my attack, I heard Hallith make one as well.

"Attack again, left!" I really did not approve of him commanding me, but I was going to attack in that manner anyway. "Thrust forward!" That was the next maneuver, so I wondered if he was simply broadcasting my steps to the enemy. "Protect left, strike forward! I have your right!" I knew that, although wondered about him providing information to the enemy as the leader of my opponents spoke.

"Ah, yes, the dependability of calm. Defeat my underlings, but you won't defeat me."

From Hallith I heard, "Left – take him! I just took right, so will take front!" He then whispered, "Trust me."

Since I did trust him, and I was going to make such an attack anyway, I again did as directed. In dropping that opponent I noticed Ayither holding her own. She was smaller than me, and without as many decades of surviving battles. I thus wondered why Hallith was helping me. Wondering if he would get agitated from me helping him, I spun to also launch an attack upon the one between us and the main opponent.

Suddenly I found myself surrounded by the large champion. To have such a great size, Hallith moved rather quickly. I felt a need to study how my maneuver had placed me with him even as I heard his soft voice.

"You attack. I will defend."

"I don't have my usual options," I replied.

"In a battle like this you won't have them anyway. I will give you openings. All you need to do is take them."

I found myself almost covered by Hallith. As when we sparred before, I found my sense of calm almost restrained by the presence of the man. I however noticed how the great fiery leader of the opponents rushed upon us. Hallith completely met the attack. Even with him almost completely covering me, I found myself with an opening to attack, and I did.

Our opponent was not a normal man. He attacked with more than one set of appendages, along with some feet work. I thought about previous fights with similar threats. I had lost other champions as we worked to isolate and surround the adversary in the usual style of calm. Those memories had me concerned with Hallith. He however kept me from harm even as I found an opening to strike at the one attempting to overcome us. While I could not help but realize that Hallith was suffering, he proved he was not a normal man by providing me with a method to continue to inflict harm to our opponent.

I did not need an instruction from Hallith to realize that we had the upper hand. As I sprang away from his protection, I heard a yell from Ayither as she also rushed to inflict harm. I believe our opponent only sought to get away in order to regain some strength. I recognized a weakness, and I believe Ayither also saw the moment to press the attack. As the last fiery creature fell, I however had to look back at Hallith.

Ayither rushed to him, but I simply said, "That would have been a foolish thing to do for most men."

He stumbled toward the pool while admitting, "Well, probably not if they were properly armored. As for me, not being armored, well, I took a beating."

I approached to see Ayither wanting to care for him, but recognizing that he was using the water to work his own healing. Seeing that he would be all right, she moved away to check over the bodies. I however approached to have my say with the man.

"I actually understand why you did what you did. I have seen comrades die against such a great and experienced opponent. I believe a lesser man would have died even if properly armored."

"Oh, my sword is large enough to make for a good barrier."

I would not allow Hallith to deny himself any credit. "If the enemy fought in a normal fashion, I would agree. He didn't."

"He fought to win. Cannot fault an opponent for that. Where he failed was in speaking of knowing you, and coming at us prepared for multiple waves. It showed too much effort for a small victory. He meant to rush over you, us, and go on to something we do not want to even speculate upon. I thus knew that we needed to meet him in a manner he had not expected and commit to the full battle. Once it was down to just him, well, I had already committed to doing all I could to stop him."

"I accept that, but I just want to say that I was not prepared for that."

"Yes, you were. You had knowledge of the tactic. I will admit that you did not like it, but you had knowledge of it. Also, I had been watching you go through both real and simulated combats. I had basically learned your routines just as he claimed to know them. Thus, I was able to present him with something he had not expected while working with you who had some understanding of what was being done."

He was right. I found myself losing my strength as I mentally replayed the battle. I won previous battles with such opponents usually by being very defensive while my comrades risked their lives in the hopes of making a serious strike. Only after one had managed a major wound did the rest of us go in for the kill. I however found myself realizing that Hallith showed me how to reduce the risk on the attacker. With armor, he was correct that even the massive onslaught of the opponent could be mostly defended or reduced. As one who also worshipped a water deity, I knelt by him to also work healing magic on the water to hopefully let him know that I accepted his tactics as being right.

I said, "I would be willing to work through those routines again."

"You did well, Slidell. Each opponent is different. Trust me, and I will not fail you. I did not fail you in this battle, so you should trust me even more next time."

"It is hard to stay calm. The routines help. I can lose myself in their repetition. When forced to do something I do not know, especially something that I consider improper, it is very hard to stay calm."

"But you did. You did well."

I thought to tell him not to patronize me, but then found humor in my thoughts. "I could not do what you did. Maybe with Ayither, as she is smaller than me, but definitely not with you. I could not have even done that with Zergus."

"Ayither, yes, probably. I learned it from female warriors working to protect their children. Thus, I suspect one day you will very much be grateful to have had me show you this tactic."

"Children?"

"Oh, they can get into trouble, especially the boys." I believe he realized that I knew nothing of the caring and rearing of children, as he kept talking. "I cannot speak for your world, but my world is not so bad. One of the reasons we Quartermasters travel to other worlds is that our gods really keep the monsters to a minimum. My world can have its periods where we men feel a need to wage war after war, but for the most part it is really just regular life bothering the locals. When Anerth had us confront Zetrullid with the desire to continue our struggles against the most vile of evil, a portal had to open to another world in order for the god to keep his promise."

I would have just listened to the man talk, but Ayither interrupted him. "The bodies are mostly ash. I get the feeling that just as the humans we fought were not natural in order to survive in the divine realms, these were mostly humans adapted to fire possibly for the same reason."

Hallith asked, "Can either of you check to see if another god has supposedly fallen, or if just another attempt failed?"

"I told you that I talk to Typhorsh all the time. Vulcan was attacked. The gates to Calderro were about to fall, but the loss to the attackers was too great. They had to pull back even with a chance at victory." I saw Ayither move to stand behind Hallith and put her hands on his neck as she said, "Typhorsh says that you were right. This force was to move over us, then use our bodies as trophies to get others to join them."

"Any suggestion for us to change our plans?"

"No. Neither of the plant gods are being threatened or being presented with diplomatic enticements. Typhorsh is actually interested in what Phetosan will say to us."

I saw them both look to me, and I answered their unspoken question. "Nemerry is puzzled. The attack was massive and well planned. It was just not massive enough, and plans were not actually correct for what they encountered. It is like they thought they knew what they were attempting to achieve, but are finding themselves to be wrong. Instead of conceding and hoping for some terms, they however are continuing with the hope of gaining troops and using actual knowledge to pull out a victory. Nemerry wants to say that they are really arrogant, although is worried that there might be something even more powerful behind them."

Ayither supported me by saying, "Yes, as going against gods is not something for the foolish to actually attempt with any hope of success."

Hallith said, "It is probably a man, as we can be really audacious in a very arrogant way."

"I don't know, as you do not know our gods."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
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PostSubject: Chapter Twenty - Part One   To Know Storm and Calm:  Part 4 (16 - 20A) Icon_minitimeFebruary 9th 2019, 7:56 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Twenty – Part One

(Hallith)

It was nice being tended to by two lovely ladies. What made this time especially enjoyable was the knowledge that both were equal companions of me. Neither of the women were slaves or normal people with the job of caring for those in need. Both Slidell and Ayither could stand beside me as equal companions in battle or life, and that made their attention toward me especially pleasant.

I could not help but recognize how lovely both were. I however kept my responses to both polite in order to prevent them from intruding upon my private considerations of what changes either one would bring into my life. Kierle did not have the power to actually alter things about me. She did a wonderful job of showing me things, and enabling me to become interested in things, but she did not have the substance of changing what I was. I watched and listened to both ladies as they cared for me recognizing that having them join me in life would force me to make concessions that would end up having an effect upon me.

Both would also come to me with the blessing of immortality. While I recognized that each only had the blessing of not aging as a temporary condition dependent upon their continuing as champions of their deities, I also caught words of them both seeing me as a manner of keeping their status while also enjoying the experiences of a normal life. Since that was what I desired as well, I saw each as being able to continue with me through the centuries. It suddenly struck me that I could end up joining other immortal couples, and the thought of the drastic amount of change that would come into my life disturbed me.

"Whoa, big boy." Ayither came from somewhere behind me to put a foot on one of my shoulders. "Are you certain you are ready to get out?"

I replied, "Yes. I need to go through some movements just to assure myself that I am ready to do everything all over again."

I felt her foot come off as she said, "You have some nice clothes in your pack. Luckily, you had a set slightly set out, and they look like things that would go under armor. They are however better than what I wear."

"One change that came to me after I quit the Quartermasters. There are now tailors that actually have my measurements, and I am able to return to them to pick up my clothes. All those centuries as a Quartermaster, I had to steal clothes when I had a chance."

"I just get what I need from a temple. Slidell has some good stuff, but those of storm do not really put in the time to create good clothes."

Wondering about her life, I asked, "Do you have money?"

"I spend it."

"Not on clothes?"

"No, not on clothes." She did not laugh when she said that, but neither did she stop talking. "You are not the first to mention my lack of desire for certain things. I heard many other champions of storm gripe about what they did not have in this life. I always thought such complaints to be improper. I mean, if they wanted nice things, they really should have thought of some other life."

I thought of the condition of the clothes I had worn. While my connection to water protected me from fire, the grace did not apply to my clothes. There was a way for me to bless them, but that would have required some warning about who would have attacked. Of course, if I had gained the warning I would have had on my armor and not bothered to have blessed my clothes.

I said, "Some people focus on what you wear. It thus tends to help to cover yourself with nice things."

"Except that this life tends to have us go through them rather quickly."

I moved to get my clothes. There had been a towel, so I was not completely naked. I however did see Ayither turn around as I got out of the water. Just to continue to speak to her, I made an honest statement as I began to put on my clothes.

"That is what I expected you to tell me. I expected you to say that you move around too much."

"Not really. I mean, I do, but not far away, and definitely not to other worlds. I guess I could have tailors make me special things, but I just have not bothered."

"If you travel with me, expect to be bothered."

She spun on me. I had things on, but really was surprised to have her look in my direction. Her face however declared that she was angry, and not interested in looking at my body.

"It is not like you are the first man to say something like that to me."

I softened my voice and spoke slow as I replied, "I would hope that I am someone you would like to say such words to you."

He face went from red in one manner to red in another, then she spun back around to look in another direction as she replied, "Uh, yes, I guess so." In a soft voice she then admitted, "I am scared of losing this life, Hallith."

"You say that you talk with your god all the time, so what does he tell you?"

"He says that there are enough problems facing me to not focus on any relationship with you. He says to give that time."

Sounded like good advice, but I had my own perspective on the topic. "Well, you tell him that I have had my time with tarts and children. The next lady had better be a wife – a lifetime partner, and my lifetime happens to be eternity."

"Damn!" She walked away, but from a distance she said, "He heard that."

Her reaction caused me to seriously consider what it could be like having Ayither as a wife. She had an energy and zeal that was proper for the life I lived. She was also very attractive. While she had a body that did not appear to have fully matured, there was more than enough feminine features to please me when I looked at her. I however found myself wondering about her in the quiet moments that would come into my life, especially those when I hoped to have that body all to myself. There was some comfort that she did not show any signs of holding her anger. Her attitude was always positive. Even around Slidell Ayither tended to keep a smile on her face and an easy nature to her actions. I found myself considering that I could get used to having her in my life, and finding her attention focused on me in other ways.

Those thoughts made it tough to travel with Ayither. Suddenly her actions around me had more substance. While before I found them entertaining, now I felt a desire to extend the little contacts, and voice returns to some of her banter to get her to focus her words toward me. The newness of such thoughts however kept me silent and still in my saddle, and I actually considered it better that I acted in that way.

I felt embarrassed when Slidell rode up next to me to ask, "You starting to have feelings for Ayither?"

Accepting that it was probably obvious, I replied, "She has been working on me, and she is cute."

"Well, she's not complaining. All that matters to me is that you are staying honest with me."

Having Slidell return to a position some distance away bothered me. I then wondered if it was just the conversation, the fact that she noticed, or something else. While the first two I would admit could affect me, I felt the conviction there would be no noticeable indication should trouble arise. I had tolerated a number of embarrassing situations in my time without any residual effect upon my behavior. The third one however did trouble me considering some recent revelations, so I turned my horse to Ayither's position.

Seeing me coming, she rode to meet me while asking, "What do you want, Hallith?"

"How much were you present for the courtship between Slidell and Zergus?"

"I don't know. Slidell and I are from the same areas, and tend to be active in the same territories. I guess I was around enough to probably answer your questions."

"Okay, so why in Hell did you not notice?"

I was Slidell who suddenly turned in our direction while loudly asking, "What?"

Ayither acted in her usual manner of taking things in stride. "It never concerned me. Honestly, most of what calm does is not a bother to me. They do the same thing so much, that you basically find out what they are doing, then figure out a way to go along in a manner that won't bother you."

I am sure that Slidell was mostly mystified by attempting to figure out how I went from her conversation concerning my developing relationship with Ayither to the failed relationship with Zergus, although I did appreciate Slidell keeping her thoughts on answering my question. "Everything was fine until I realized he was hiding things from me."

I looked at her and said, "But isn't that our trouble now? Something is going on that we are not being aware of. You want me to be honest with you. Fine, but that then begs the question of who is not being honest with us. Considering what we have been told, that could even be the gods, a group that all three of us should consider ultimate sources of sincerity."

"Zergus was not a threat. I learned he was a creep, but not really a threat."

"But he is a verification that you can be fooled. If you have a blind spot, we need you aware of it."

Ayither smiled as she said, "He has you there."

It actually impressed me to see Slidell not get angry with either of us, but pause to consider her own thoughts. "Zergus is from a good family. From the first of me hearing that he had been accepted as a Champion of Nemerry, I felt that he would be a good man for me. I guess I was thus an easy target for his enticements."

"She is correct. She was rather smitten with Zergus from the start."

I smiled at Slidell while saying, "Good, you are being honest with me."

The Champion of Nemerry asked, "Well, what about Ayither?"

"Ah, she's small. I can take her."

"Hey!" the lady of storm exclaimed, only to then admit, "Typhorsh says that you probably could."

I smiled at Ayither, then turned to Slidell to say, "You have the history with her, so I need you to let me know if she acts really out of character."

The Champion of Nemerry replied, "She's storm, so I have to watch her just to assure that things do not get out of hand. Still, I do trust her, and consider her a true friend. If I have a problem with her, I will bring it to her attention as well as yours, Hallith."

"Good. Listen, I do not know your gods, which includes Phetosan. I thus need to be sure of both you ladies, and I need to do all I can to have both of you trust me. If something seems suspicious, I want the assurance that both of you will let me know."

Ayither asked, "Had a past problem with a woman not telling you everything?"

"No. Honestly, I did not. Kierle was more than open on a number of things, including between her legs." That last part did have mouths open, but otherwise kept the ladies quiet. "Who I have had keep secret are those, almost always men, who were acting on behalf of figures who I was opposed to. Thus, whoever is keeping secrets I feel needs to be run over to get to whatever secrets are being protected."

"Sounds like storm to me."

Slidell replied, "We cannot just rush to attack anyone we suspect of duplicity."

"I don't see why not."

I quickly worked to cut short any further exchange between the ladies. "Because whatever is going on probably has layers of secrets. Still, if we can trust in each other and will talk to each other then we should be able to determine strategies or at least rule out the most stupid actions."

Slidell quickly replied, "Yes, I can agree with that."

Ayither admitted, "Yes, I can as well. Okay, is that all you had to say, Hallith?"

I smiled, then answered, "Not since you asked. You are quite lovely, Ayither. Now, I have said what I had to say."

As I turned my mount to again head in the direction of travel, I heard Ayither ask, "You put him up to that, didn't you Slidell?"

"Honestly," the Champion of Nemerry replied, "I am not certain if I did or not."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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